Cast your minds back to a time when metal music was not cool. Nay, indeed, a time when metal was anathema to all that was considered to be “chic” and “in.” A time when your favorite bands were actually encouraged by the music industry to play slower, cut their hair, and write sensitive lyrics about their childhoods. Yes, this unfortunately really happened. Our semi-irregular feature “90s Metal Weirdness” focuses on albums released between 1992 and 2001 and which we all probably would rather forget. — AMG
The Back Story: When I was a kid, I was bedridden for about 3 weeks with bronchitis. In an effort to cheer me up, my folks brought home some new CDs from bands I liked. This included Ozzy‘s then-current Ozzmosis, and Metallica‘s single for “Until it Sleeps.” The third CD was Anthrax‘s 1995 trainwreck Stomp 442. By comparison, the bronchitis seemed pleasant, and I recovered quickly.
If it feels like Anthrax has been on some kind of “comeback” for years now, rest assured that this record is what they are coming back from.
What Does It Sound Like: If Load was Metallica‘s perception of ’90s rock, then Stomp was Anthrax‘s interpretation of the post-Nirvana landscape. Most of these songs are built upon nothing more than minimalist drop-D riffs and monotone vocals. I’d bet money that these guys were listening to a shitload of Helmet at the time. “King Size,” “Drop the Ball,” and “In a Zone” are so one-dimensional that they might as well be the same song.
A few songs stand out from the shit heap. “Fueled” rocks out shamelessly, and gets bonus points for somehow name-checking Charles Bukowski. “Bare” is the album’s sole ballad, and while it’s no “Black Lodge,” it at least allows John Bush to sing in his natural style and not sound like an idiot. And I always kinda liked the song “Perpetual Motion,” although I’m still not sure why. Also, this album is a showcase for drummer Charlie Benante, who delivers some driving rhythms throughout.
Everything about Stomp 442 feels completely, horribly forced. 1994’s Sound of White Noise might have made some concessions to the times, but it still felt like Anthrax, and in many ways it was the logical next step from Persistence of Time. Stomp 442 is the sound of admitting defeat and jumping on some totally inappropriate bandwagons.
The one silver lining is that lead guitarist/cross-eyed guy Dan Spitz quit, and the band brought in none other than Dimebag Darrell to fill in. Dime was at the peak of his powers at the time, and his solos manage to redeem some otherwise worthless songs, i.e. “Riding Shotgun.”
Are There Any Songs About Molestation/Stupid Political Lyrics? Nope. Like many ’90s albums by ’80s bands, the lyrics were fixated on being left in the dust career-wise by grunge rock. The track “Tester” spells it out bluntly: “Tell me/an alternative to what?” (Somehow, their dislike for alternative rock didn’t stop them from imitating it as much as humanly possible.)
Is There Any Rapping On The Album? You bet your sweet ass there is. Apparently Scott Ian felt that “Bring the Noise” gave him some cred in the rap game, and wrote some awkward white-guy rhymes for Bush to struggle through. Opener “Random Acts of Senseless Violence” is by far the worst offender, though other songs are also pretty ridiculous.
Were Haircuts Involved? Haircuts and rap-metal are the only trends that Anthrax were ahead of the curve on. Scott Ian had been bald for years, and Benante and Frank Bello were already sporting ’90s-approved styles. Bush had kind of a Bruce Willis-circa-Hudson Hawk thing going on, before shaving his head and turning into a dead ringer for my middle school guidance counselor.
The Aftermath: Predictably, Anthrax got dropped from Elektra Records after Stomp, resulting in a series of shitty indie labels (seen a copy of Volume 8 anywhere lately? Didn’t think so). They endured an insane amount of lineup changes, including a humiliating revolving door of vocalists between 2005-2010. Eventually, Anthrax rehired their ’80s-era singer Joey Belladonna, ensuring that no one under the age of 45 would ever give a shit about them again. Some people seemed to like their latest release Worship Music (2011).
After telling Anthrax to get fucked, Bush launched a successful career as a voiceover actor, eventually becoming the “voice” of Burger King’s TV commercials. I bet he’d rather shill for Whoppers and chicken fries than rap his way through “Random Acts” ever again. He does stuff occasionally with his original band Armored Saint [Which also sucks. – AMG].